Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country. Not everybody is given that chance.
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scatter’d on the Alpine mountains cold,
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones;
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The Vales redoubl’d to the Hills, and they
To Heav’n. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O’er all th’ Italian fields where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
John Milton (1608-1674), Sonnet 18: “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont”
It was sonnet Milton wrote, inspired by the gruesome massacre of the Waldensians on the mountains of Italy beginning on April 24, 1655 by Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, authorized by Pope Innocent VIII. (Ironic name, right?)
On the short history of this amazing people, the Waldensians:
“A Time of Mourning, A Time for War” by John Hobbins
“History of the Waldenses” by J.A. Wylie published in 1860
While the Filipino and American forces struggled to hold their positions in Bataan from January to April 1942 in the defense of the Philippines against the Japanese invasion, they were subjected to the heat of the sun, hunger and incessant attacks from the Imperial Japanese soldiers. But the attack was not only physical but psychological and ideological as well.
Here is one flier I found at the archival collections of Jorge Vargas. It’s one of those fliers the Imperial Japanese threw at the Filipino and American soldiers holding the lines in Bataan at the time. It contains the best summary of the logic behind the Japanese propaganda called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Using their knowledge of Philippine history, the Japanese would use the familiar but somehow truthful rhetoric of European and American imperialism in Asia and its effect on the still-born Philippine independence of June 1898. While we do not deny the evils of colonization and imperialism in Asia done by Western powers, we should also not deny that many have also ridden the bandwagon of a “unified Asia” or the “Asia for the Asians” for their own ends. Anyone advocating a concept of a ‘unified Asia’ against the ‘West’ should take heed of this history lesson. The world is not as simple as dividing its hemispheres of East vs. West, of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ Especially in the historical context of the Philippines. There are extremes to avoid. There are dichotomies too simplistic to be real.
By fighting the oppressors, the Empire of Japan (of the early 20th century) had become an oppressor itself. And the Philippines was caught in the middle.
The Spanish Senate commissioned the award-winning painter Juan Luna to do a painting of the Battle of Lepanto, thanks to the influence of King Alfonso XII of Spain. One would wonder, if Luna had connections with the Spanish royalty, did he ever mention the aspirations of the Ilustrados for equality and for a Philippine representation in the Spanish Cortes to the Spanish king? Or was he complacent like some Ilustrados? Curious.
The Battle of Lepanto was fought by Spanish and Ottoman forces on October 7, 1571 (five decades after Magellan landed on the Philippine shores). A clash of worldviews and cannons.
Juan Luna, Combate Naval de Lepanto (7 de Octubre de 1571), 1887, Palacio del Senado de España
Today we remember the surrender of the 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers (87% were Filipinos) against the hegemon that was the Empire of Japan. From December 1941 to April 1942, the Philippine forces valiantly held out in Bataan amidst impossible odds against the attacks of the overwhelming Japanese forces and with their backs on the sea. Famine, illnesses, fatigue, and a lot of casualties took toll on the troops. Bataan peninsula witnessed the heroism of individuals from all over the archipelago, laying down their lives for freedom. My very own grandfather was a member of the 14th Engineers Regiment of the prestigious Philippine Scouts tasked to build bridges, trenches and prepare defense lines for efficient retreat and offense. He died on April 6, a mere three days before the surrender of Bataan, showing the great casualties suffered by the troops on the days leading to April 9th, 1942. From the Malinta Tunnel at Corregidor would be heard the sad announcement on that fateful day through the radio program “Voice of Freedom”:
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.If not for their sacrifice, the Japanese invasion plan would have been fully implemented as scheduled and it would have been difficult to stop the Japanese from conquering Australia, thus compromising the Allied offensive which was done in 1945.
The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.
For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith—something in the heart and soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy! It was the thought of native land and all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless of all our human prerogatives.
The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds.
But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more than flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come.
Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world—cannot fall!
Thank God for our heroes. And as we remember those who have fallen, we must also remind ourselves that even Death itself is a defeated enemy.
Here are some posts related to this part of Philippine History.
— To remember those who have fallen
— In commemoration of the Fall of Corregidor
— Olympics and the Philippines: The Filipino Pioneers
— Visiting the Pacific War Memorial
— Coconut Fiber helmet of the Philippine Constabulary
I have had time to think and to pray about my situation and that of my nation and to have God’s will for me clarified… I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people…Such a decision each man must make for himself. Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice in security.
Letter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Reinhold Niebuhr, July 1939.
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany who bravely sided with the Jews during the Holocaust, smuggled Jews to safety in Switzerland, and was involved in the failed Valkyrie plot to assassinate Adolf Hilter. He was the leader of the underground Confessing Church who seceded from the Nazi state church through the famous Barmen Declaration of 1934. He was instrumental in making the horrors of the Nazi regime known outside of Germany. He was imprisoned, and was executed in a concentration camp on April 9, 1945.
The defeat of his nation for truth, or the victory of his nation for a lie? He knew the choice he had to make.
Rethinking Nationalism: The Sad Life of Artemio Ricarte
Finally, at long last, the long lost veteran of the Philippine Revolution returns to his country. It was 1941, and his memory of Filipinas when he last saw it in the 1900s was a Filipinas that was united against another hegemon that replaced Spain, the United States. He successfully led the revolution in the Philippines in its first phase (against Spain) and in its second phase, in what would be known as the Philippine-American War. His name was General Artemio Ricarte.
He was there when he rose up among the ranks of the Katipunan. Having been one of the leaders of the national revolutionary movement, Ricarte was the one who stopped Bonifacio in pulling the trigger against Tirona during the controversial Tejeros Convention which relegated the founder of the Katipunan to a mere Director of the Interior, an insult Bonifacio would have accepted, if not for a tirade by Tirona. Ricarte fought on under the Magdiwang (Bonifacio’s faction) and even disagreed in the surrender of Biak-na-Bato, where the Spaniards offered a truce to the Revolutionaries (which the Spaniards never intended to fulfill). He fought on against the new conqueror, the United States, and even refused to swear allegiance to its flag when he was captured. Even after Guam, Ricarte never gave in. He was eventually exiled to China, but with the American consul in China playing tricks on him, he decided he would go to Japan. During that time, Japan was very sympathetic to independence movements in Asia. Mariano Ponce and Sun Yat-Sen would often meet in Yokohama, Japan. It was on that same place that Ricarte settled in. He built a Filipino restaurant there and refused to go back to the Philippines even when he was invited by Quezon to the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth government.
But in 1941, Japan had become an empire. The Philippines was “privileged” to be grafted to it. And the Japanese offered Ricarte a return trip home, with perks and with a mission, to herald the Japanese arrival to free the Asian nations subjugated by Western imperialism, and build the ‘glorious’ Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
But as he returned, oh how different the Philippines had become. What was once a generation of patriots guided by the nationalism of 1896 in which he belonged, has become a generation of an ‘American-sponsored independence.’ What was once a country who expected the assistance of Japan for the Philippine Revolution after the Sino-Japanese War has become a country that saw Japan taking away that gift of independence from the U.S. What is ‘ la independencia’ anyway?
He was on the wrong side of the fence. The Filipinos changed in a single generation. This was not entirely the fault of Filipinos. The Americans, compared to the Spaniards, were more humane, more open, and gave more opportunities for the Filipinos to rise up to the political and economic ladder. The U.S. had become the “friend” of the Philippines no matter how dubious that might be, a sort of love-hate relationship, if you could put it. When Japan invaded the country on December 1941, the U.S. was about to give independence to the Philippines in a few years time (on July 1946). But as Filipinos saw it, here was Imperial Japan, taking all that chance of freedom away, and worse, the Revolutionary Hero Ricarte was assisting them!
In 1944, Ricarte was eventually coerced by the Japanese (against his will) to force the population into submission by leading the Makapili, the organized Japanese militant group that drafted volunteers for the Japanese Army. A Makapili member is infamously known as having a bayong on his head to cover his face, as he would point a person from the lined-up men as being suspected of subversive activities. One pointing of the Makapili by his finger and the person being pointed at would be doomed.
As F. Sionil Jose correctly put in his novel on Ricarte, “Vibora!”, Ricarte would run to the Cordillera mountains to escape with the Japanese as Allied forces chase them deeper into the mountainous ranges. Ricarte would not be able to find out that his wife would herself be murdered by the Japanese.
When does nationalism end and excessive pride begin? When does true for fellowmen end and subtle lie of racial ‘greatness’ begin? It happened in China during the hyper-optimism of Mao. It happened in Germany during the height of nationalism fanned afire by Hitler’s charisma. It happened in Japan, when the extreme loyalty and nationalism of the Japanese have numbed them to the point that they could commit unimaginable atrocities against other races. Even F. Sionil Jose in his Ricarte novel failed to answer. The reader would only be left with a searing judgment of not pointing a finger at Ricarte since he was just a victim of circumstances. One would wonder, that’s it? No redemption at all?
How many Ricartes roam the Philippines? How many of them who were once full of idealism and nationalism are now angry at the government, at the convoluted bureaucracy, the blatant corruption? Is nationalism, that vague notion of a big picture, the real answer? Ricarte failed to realize, and maybe he did in that forest as he was running for his life, that it is not nationalism—or loyalty to his people that can save us. For in the end, we will not be judged as nations but as individuals within our respective nations.
F. Sionil Jose said, “We are our own enemy and we have to have the courage and the will to change ourselves.” Is it really enough to change ourselves? How? How do we fix the ficklemindedness, that dark depravity that is deeply rooted not only in the Filipino psyche but in all the ethnicities of the world?
“For ALL we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned his own way… “
“For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…”
The Good Book seems to equalize all ethnicities. All have their dark sides before the Almighty.
History here offers an answer hard to swallow. Truth.
Truth does not side with either the colonizer or the colonized. Truth points out both the excesses of the conqueror and the conquered. It gives an ugly view of reality—but it is reality. It is truth just the same. Truth humbles the pride of nations, and exalts men and women who are humble enough to accept its painful lesson. That is why Truth can have the guts to say in the face of angry millions who agreed with the massacre of the Jews, “They too are human beings like us!” Truth can say in the face of millions of stoic suicidal loyalists of Imperial Japan, “Where is our conscience?!” Truth can speak even in the appealing face of ethnocentrism, with the very words of Rizal: “Genius has no country, it blossoms everywhere. Genius is like the light, the air. It is the heritage of all.” It is truth that could have saved Ricarte from the trap that he was caught in.
Truth. Only a few side with it. And siding with it can cost you dearly. Which is why truth is a rarity these days. Is our nationalism built on and balanced by truth? This truth that this country is just temporal, like all other civilizations and countries that fell and are now forgotten? Truth that the country is not really the land or its symbols or even its culture, it is the people? Truth that yes even a people can err and what matters is the choices each individual makes? Or are we easily swayed by that self-exalting pride and romanticized/emotional patriotism that we ourselves have created?
Rizal may be accused as too Western or too Spanish by some of us. But he was a real nationalist in a sense that he never confused the emotional euphoria and romanticized imaginings of ‘nation’ to what the purpose of nationhood is, for mutual duty and responsibility, nothing more. But as we live this life, we would discover that even these duties, no matter how noble, are not enough to fill the vacuum within the human being. We need something more.
May all those who are nationalists (me included) heed this lesson as a warning.
*Photo above, Ricarte’s family and their Filipino restaurant at Yokohama, Japan.
εν τουτω εστιν η αγαπη ουχ οτι ημεις ηγαπησαμεν τον θεον αλλ οτι αυτος ηγαπησεν ημας και απεστειλεν τον υιον αυτου ιλασμον περι των αμαρτιων ημων
1 John 4:10 in the original manuscript (Majority Text)
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
In the original Koine Greek language (the entire New Testament of the Christian Scriptures was written in this street/vernacular language), the words that should strike us in this excerpt are the words (ἀγάπη) ‘agape’ and (ἱλασμὸν) ‘hilasmon.’
Hilasmon or Propitiation means the turning away of God’s ‘wrath’ or ‘galit’ in Tagalog, away from us. The mere mention of this divine wrath, which may turn off any modern reader, is not an unjustified emotion gone berserk. It is the divine’s demand for justice. Like when someone kills a loved one, you would strongly feel the demand for justice for the sake of the victim.
The Infinite Divine, implicit in this verse, who is infinitely pure, good and infinitely worthy, the ultimate source of all human happiness—was offended by us. A theologian, John Piper, puts it this way:
We glorify what we enjoy the most. And it isn’t God.
The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore failure to love him is not trivial—it’s treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness.
But the genius of the Cross, according to this verse, is that the justice of God and the love of God meet and become one. When the ‘Son’ came to die, he became a propitiation. It means because of the Son, God’s wrath has turned to the Son, and away from us. At the same time, the Son’s ‘righteousness’ or ‘purity’ was imputed or transferred to us. Thus, all who believe in the Son are rendered ‘blameless’ before God. (Jude 1:24).
In effect because of our inability, God himself answered all the demands of his own justice. And the writer calls this surprisingly as ‘agape’, a Greek-nuanced word not usually used during those times. For it means ‘Love without attachments’ or more perfectly rendered in English as ‘Unconditional Love.’ It is a love given not because of anything we did or would do but ultimately because of the will of the Giver.
Thus, once agape is given, the receiver cannot subtract or add to it. It would be illogical. After what the Son did through the cross, there is nothing we can do to make this Infinite Divine love us more. Because by definition, that love is [hold your breath]…. unconditional.
Just a small snippet to an ad fontes moment (back to the primary source) to give us Filipinos clarity amidst unnecessary rituals, eeky annual crucifixions and funny/absurd superstitions this coming week.
Isang mapagpalaya at maligayang Holy Week sa ating lahat!
(We dare not be gloomy. And please don’t hesitate to take a bath.)
First Battle of Bud Dajo
The photo above has a lot of history. Grim and forgotten. But it haunts us to this day.
107 years ago, the Tausugs of Sulu fought fiercely against another nation that tried to wrest their sovereignty from them, the United States. They fought the American soldiers who were well-armed with rifles. The Tausugs were only armed with their kris and spears.
In the early years of the American colonization in the Philippines, the Muslims of southern Philippines (called Moros) were the most formidable force unassailed in the south and had remained resolute in refusing the sovereignty of the United States on their islands. For them, to pay taxes to the U.S. Government was ‘blasphemy’ since this was their land. Bud Dajo, a mountain a few miles away from Jolo, Sulu, took centerstage as it became a stronghold of the Moros (or to be specific, the ethnic group called Tausug) who would not surrender. It has been the tradition of the Tausugs to show their protest by going to the mountains where no authority could impose on them. However, the Americans, who wanted to take the whole archipelago, saw it as uncontrollable, in that from March 5 to 8, 1906, the American soldiers surrounded Bud Dajo and attacked (more correctly termed ‘massacred’) an estimated 850 Tausugs. According to Robert Fulton, two thirds of those killed were women and children. It wouldn’t be long until the photo above was released to the American media hearkened by the American group Anti-Imperialist League (of which the renowned American anti-imperialist author Mark Twain was a member). Unfortunately the events at Bud Dajo was eventually forgotten (it was election time), and the American governor of the Moro Province at the time who was in charge of the ‘pacification’, Gen. Leonard Wood, was eventually appointed as the American Governor-General of the Philippines, the major obstacle to Filipinization of the leadership of the country. Wood was also a source of headache for the Independence Mission led by Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena and Manuel Roxas, as they lobbied for Philippine independence in the U.S. Senate.
Perhaps it is disturbing enough that the photo was scandalizing and inhumane. But more disturbing is the fact that many Filipinos do not know this as part of Philippine history. It would not be a surprise that the Sabah issue would escalate and be mishandled.
But more on that soon.
(after I finish this history paper. ugh)
*Photo above came from Robert Fulton’s excellent site on the Moros, MoroLandHistory.com